Fibre Optics: The Future is Now
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
As the demand for high-speed internet grows, our current network infrastructure is struggling to keep up. The increased need for access to the cloud, fast downloads, bandwidth intensive streaming, and video distribution throughout the home has brought a requirement for better network infrastructure. Fibre optics have been around for some time, but due to the ease of installation of copper infrastructure and past bandwidth demand, have not been widespread in domestic installation.
Traditional copper infrastructure uses electrical signals to carry information. Optical cables are made from glass or plastic fibres about the thickness of a human hair, and they use light to transmit signals rather than electricity. Transmitting signals this way offers greater bandwidth on current installations, as well offering the possibility to upgrading performance in the future without the need for invasive works. This is due to the lack of theoretical limitations on the amount of data a fibre can transfer, with the limiting factor being the constantly evolving electronics that sit at either end.
In terms of video distribution, fibre offers the necessary speed and bandwidth for ultra-high definition video and audio transmission without relying on compression. While the HDBaseT connectivity standard can support up to 18 Gbps (gigabytes per second) via a standard copper twisted pair cable, it relies on colour compression, thus making images appear flatter than an uncompressed file.
What’s in it for homeowners looking to create next-level home technology experiences? Some of the clearest pictures and fasted speeds available today, as well as improved longevity from your cabling infrastructure.
Fibre optic is super fast and reliable — even at long distances
Because optical fibre uses light to transmit information, the resulting connection speed can be many times faster than what we’re used to with traditional wiring. It can also offer these speeds over a much greater distance depending on the system used, this characteristic being the main reason they have been used in the telecoms industry for so long. In a residential setting, this provides an excellent opportunity to bring multiple buildings under a single control system, to provide surveillance or network access across an extended area, or to allow entry communications with a gate located some distance away.
Optical fibre is extremely reliable
Copper is an extremely conductive material, which is what makes it so good for carrying signals versus other metals. Unfortunately this is a double edged sword as its high conductivity poses risks for electrical complications. Its conductivity makes it susceptible to picking up electromagnetic interference from electrically noisy sources such as close running mains cabling, transformers or fluorescent lighting. It also means it can pass around unwanted power surges, pick up ground loop hum and present all kinds of signal destroying noise. This means that great care must be taken on installation to avoid such sources of interference.
Glass and plastic however are not electrically conductive, and therefore are immune to problems like power surges and electromagnetic interference. Optical fibre is also more durable than traditional wiring, with some modern solutions offering higher resistance to pull pressure and other wear-and-tear that installation processes can exert. If you take into account the fact that it is also much less reactive and therefore less susceptible to corrosion over time, this is where the future cabling infrastructure has to be.
So what are the practical applications of fibre in home installation?
We tend to recommend running a fibre connection to every TV point when designing infrastructure. This is the area that has seen the greatest increase in bandwidth requirements over the past few years, and this trend will only increase over time. The massive data demands of modern HDMI signals makes them particularly sensitive to any kind of interference, as such fibre should be a strong consideration for distribution.
Another useful application of optical fibre on a domestic installation is where distance is an issue. We often see this with gate comms, where the entrance to a property is sited away from the main building. In this case, fibre can be run to provide a stable link for communications, control and surveillance.
If you need assistance in designing a suitable cabling infrastructure for your new build or renovation project Contact us.
We are audio visual specialists who have been delivering luxury technology solutions for residential spaces in the UK since 2010.